All posts by 3 churches

The Basilicas of Lourdes

Saturday is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The shrine attracts millions of pilgrims, and over the decades this has required more and bigger churches, which can confuse, or even overwhelm the visitor at first. The Domaine, or Sanctuary area, covers 130 acres and while its heart is the simplicity of the Grotto where Our Lady appeared, there are now many places of worship, and three of these are “basilicas”, a name given to a church as an honour, or distinction by the Pope. Entering the Sanctuary through St Michael’s Gate, the pilgrim will find the first two. The first, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, overlooks the second, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary. The third basilica is underground and extends along the great esplanade of the processions.

The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was started in 1866, and is the chapel requested by the Virgin Mary during the 13th apparition: “Go and tell the priests to build a chapel here and that people should come in procession”. It bears the name revealed by the Virgin to Bernadette in the local dialect: “Que soy era Immaculada Concepciou”. It is in a neo-Gothic style, and over 50 metres long, while the spire reaches 70 metres. The stained-glass windows detail the Apparitions, and the history of Lourdes and the Church.

The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary is built in a Romano-Byzantine style, on a Greek cross plan, i.e. with four equal arms. It was consecrated in 1901, and features mosaics representing the mysteries of the Rosary covering 2,000 square metres inside, while the Mysteries of Light were added outside in 2008.

The Basilica of St Pius X was inaugurated in 1958 for the 100th anniversary of the Apparitions. The vast underground basilica is an architectural feat by its dimensions, while its design, elliptical in shape and resembling an upturned boat, is unique, thanks to modern means such as pre-stressed concrete. It is the place for the celebration of international Masses, large gatherings, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the blessing of the sick at the end of each Eucharistic procession. It covers 12,000 square metres and has seating for 5,000 but can accommodate 20,000 people in total.

Fr Matthew, edited from the official website


On Thursday we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple in Jerusalem. The baby was offered by Mary and Joseph, presented to God our Father. They were told by Simeon how this baby was destined the light of the nations, for “the rising and falling of many”. Ever since, his followers have heroic offerings of themselves for the good of others. Here is an inspiring example from just after midnight on Feb. 3, 1943, when an act of extraordinary unselfishness by a group of men became a legend of martyrdom and sacrifice.

When the US Army ship Dorchester was torpedoed by the Germans just south of Greenland that night, its passengers and crew had 25 minutes to get off the boat. As 902 people went for the life jackets, it quickly was discovered there weren’t near enough. Of the 13 lifeboats, only two functioned.

In the ship’s final minutes, Methodist senior chaplain George Lansing Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Dutch Reformed minister Clark V. Poling and Fr John P. Washington, a Catholic priest, were helping passengers leave the vessel. Then four men appeared, all of them without life jackets. The chaplains quickly gave up their own vests – and went down with the ship, perishing in the freezing water. Survivors saw them, locked arm in arm, praying and singing the Navy hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” just before the ship sank beneath the waves.

It was a night as dramatic as the sinking of the Titanic – but without a blockbuster movie to record the drama. “The Four Immortal Chaplains,” as they became known, have been honoured many times, including on a stamp issued in their honour by the U.S. Postal Service. The first Sunday in February is known ” in some Christian denominations as “Four Chaplains Sunday.

These four presented and offered themselves completely for the wellbeing of others as Jesus was presented to God his Heavenly Father in the Temple of Jerusalem for the salvation of the world.

Fr Matthew

The touching place of God

The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity runs from January 18 to 25 each year. An order of service is produced by a different country every year, and this is the introductory prayer for 2023. It makes a thoughtful and inspiring reflection on who we are, and what is our calling.

How great is this place,
for it is the touching place of God.
In Christ, we are gathered from the edges
And woven into the dream.
Here we feel the hint of heaven,
Where justice, love and mercy meet.
Here we celebrate
The blessedness of unity in God.
We, who were once far off,
Are brought near.
And so we pray,
God, creator of all,
In your love, you have made each one of us
In your grace, you gather us together in your image
In your mercy, you make us restless until we find our rest in you. Disturb us in our contentment,
Distract us from our comforts
Deter us from our conflicts
Until your kingdom comes and your will is done.


Fr Matthew